A Healthy Diet Leads to Healthy Hearing
We are all familiar with the primary ways to protect our ears: wearing headphones around loud noises, reducing the volume level while using headphones, taking care when cleaning our ears. But recent evidence shows a new way to protect our ears is emerging–a healthy diet. Whether you are eating dark green vegetables or a salmon fillet, the nutrients on your plate are playing a role in ensuring your long-term hearing health. Let’s take a closer look at how a balanced diet (or lack of one) can affect our ability to hear.
Antioxidants and Omegas: The Superstars of the Dinner Table
The Journal of Nutrition has published new findings showing that the B-vitamin Folate (an antioxidant) and Omega-3 fatty acids contain properties which are beneficial to the ear.
Circulation plays a big role in hearing health. The study found that low levels of folate (the synthetic form of which is folic acid) results in restricted blood flow to the cochlea–the part of the inner ear that converts sound energy into electrical signals which are then sent to the brain. This folate deficiency and its effects on circulation were associated with a 35% higher risk of hearing loss in people 50 and over. Folate also acts an antioxidant, fighting free radicals which can have damaging effects on nerve tissue in the inner ear. The bottom line? Folate is a friend to your ears.
So how can you make sure you are getting adequate amounts of folate in your diet? Fortunately, this vitamin is naturally occurring in a variety of foods, including fortified breakfast cereal, liver, eggs, spinach and other leafy greens, broccoli and asparagus. With a little thought and meal planning, it should be easy to load up on folate at both breakfast and dinner time. And remember –skipping breakfast means you are missing out on important nutrients that your body needs, so make time for this important meal.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
The famously healthy fatty acids we’ve heard so much about also have ear-protecting properties, according to the same study carried out by the Journal of Nutrition.
These unsaturated fatty acids occur primarily in fish oil, and it was found that participants who ate two or more servings of fish per week were less likely to develop age-related hearing loss, as compared to those who had less than a serving a week. Of participants who already had some hearing loss, those who began to incorporate more fish into their diets saw the progression of their hearing loss slow.
This research suggests that age-related hearing loss could be delayed or prevented by the anti-inflammatory, circulation-strengthening properties of omega-3’s. So how can one reap the benefits of this amazing supplement? Fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, or sardines) is an excellent source of omega-3’s, and eating two or more portions a week has been shown to reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss by 42%. These fatty acids also naturally occur in flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, fish roe (eggs), seafood, soybeans, and spinach.
Other Vitamins and Minerals Which Can Benefit Your Hearing
According to a recent article in The Daily Sentinel, there are a number of additional vitamins and minerals which could have a positive effect on your hearing health. Referring audiologist for the article Dr. Joe McDermott, AuD, recommends incorporating the following into your diet to maintain healthy hearing as well as overall good health:
-Vitamin B12, shown to improve blood flow to the ears
-Vitamins C, D, and E shown to improve immunity, circulation, and bone health
-Zinc, shown to have immune-boosting properties that protect against age-related hearing loss
-Magnesium, shown to contain a nutrient that reduces noise-related hearing damage
A well-rounded diet is the best way to make sure you are getting these, as well as other, important nutrients–but some may choose to supplement with a multivitamin as well. The next time you’re at the grocery store, consider adding some leafy greens and fish to your basket. Your hearing health depends on it.
Have questions about your hearing health? Contact us at Greentree Audiology.